Disputed parenting cases often involve an allegation of some degree of parental alienation.
Parental alienation is defined by “Google” as the process of the psychological manipulation of a child resulting in that child showing unwarranted fear, disrespect or hostility towards a parent and/or other family members. In other words, it is when one parent deliberately sets out to destroy the relationship between a child and its other parent, causing a breakdown of previously normal, healthy “parent child” relationship.
If a judge is satisfied that there has been an extreme case of parental alienation, they may determine that it is in a child’s best interests to have no time with the alienating parent, indefinitely or for a set period. This can result in a complete change of living arrangements for the child.
In such cases the child is a victim but so too is the target parent, and serious impacts are felt on all sides. Not only is the child parent bond disrupted, but the child can suffer psychological trauma as a result.
Any pattern of behaviour by a parent that has the effect whether intentionally or otherwise, of belittling a child’s relationship with the other parent is taken very seriously by the court.
In the decision of Shan & Prasad  FamCAFC 12 (1 February 2018) the Full Court (Strickland, Ryan & Cronin JJ) heard the husband’s appeal against Judge Altobelli’s Final Order that the wife have sole parental responsibility for their two children and that they spend no time with the father “until they each attain the age of 18 years”.
While the primary judge considered the benefits to the children of having a meaningful relationship with their father, it was determined that those benefits were outweighed by the risk of harm ‘derived from the husband’s personality dysfunction, namely narcissistic personality traits’. Due to these traits and his past behaviour, it was determined that the children were at serious risk of being subjected to parental alienation.
The appeal in this instance was regarding the Order that the children not spend time with the Father until they are 18 years of age.
The Full Court agreed that it was not in the best interests of the children to spend time with their father now, however, accepted that this might change over time and therefore removed the reference to there being no time until the children were “18 years of age”.
Those who have been involved in matters that include elements of parental alienation both as the alienating parent, the target parent or the child, may consider Family Therapy, counselling and/or medication to assist with the reunification process of the child and parent. Locally there are many services in our community that could assist with these issues. The details of some of these services can be found here.
If you are concerned that your child is being subject to parental alienation we would recommend that you immediately take steps to deal with the matter and contact a Specialist Family Lawyer.